Ali Madarshahi, lead singer of Iranian death-metal band Arsames, tells James Wilkinson about loving the country that made him a musical outlaw 1 Comments
- Picture 1 of 2
Bands in Dubai complain – with some justification – that they find it hard to get gigs here. Things have improved hugely over the last couple of years, of course, but between conservative venues and a labyrinthine licensing process, the going remains hard for many.
Still, that’s nothing compared to what bands like Arsames have to put up with. After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which saw the country change from an increasingly moderate monarchy to a fundamentalist Islamic state, all rock and metal music was banned (an action that later inspired The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’). Although ’80s president Mohammad Khatami relaxed the rules enough to allow rock bands to play again, albeit with government restrictions, metal music is still forbidden in the country.
That’s bad news for Arsames, the Iranian death metal band who will play at Metal Asylum this weekend. ‘Many Muslim countries have the same problem with this kind of music,’ says frontman Ali Madarshahi. ‘Their governments think that metal is Satanic music and that it’s going to destroy their beliefs. But I don’t believe in Satan and he has nothing to do with our music.’
Indeed, while the band have managed to play the occasional underground gig for fans in their home country, the danger of prosecution means that advertised gigs are out. Ali couldn’t even do a phone interview with us for fear of the government catching on.
It’s a shame, because even in our emailed correspondence he is clearly bursting with enthusiasm for the band and – even more so – for the music itself. ‘We play sounds of metal, friendship, brotherhood and respect,’ he says. ‘It’s the sound of humanity and freedom, not killing and brutality. By combining the heavenly melodies of old Arabian music with death metal, we have created “ancient death metal”, a whole new genre to explore.’
That genre will, the boys hope, be embraced by the wider world. Indeed, they see themselves as ambassadors not just for Iranian metal but for the country itself, and the long and storied history that trails behind it.
‘A lot of people in the wider world don’t understand our country,’ says Ali, ‘but we’re trying to educate them through the international language of music. Our lyrics are all about Iran’s legendary history and the stories of Persian culture. One song, ‘Cyrus the Great’, is about a Persian emperor and the first instructor of human rights in the world. We have spoken to people who have later gone and researched this man’s life after they heard us playing the track.’
And, true to patriotic form, the band have no plans to repatriate to another country any time soon, no matter how much the political wind blows against them. ‘We love our country and we don’t want to leave it, but we hope to find a sponsor to do a world tour. It would be great for metalheads around the world to see this kind of Iranian metal. The future is ours – we just have to break through this wall of restrictions first.’
Time Out Dubai,
- Asia Asia(1)
- Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE(1)
- Café Habana(1)
- Cavalli Club(1)
- Domeland at The Lodge(1)
- Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa(1)
- Dubai Media City Amphitheatre(6)
Most viewed galleries
- The Fridge Singer Songwriter Showcase
- Bassworx with DJ Subset
- Art Departmentand Russ Yallop in Dubai
- Mahiki Dubai anniversary party
- XL beach party
Most viewed eventsAll events
Our favourite features
Christmas dinner in Dubai 2014 Book your Dubai Christmas dinner early and avoid missing out
Best afternoon tea in Dubai Cake, sandwiches, tea and lashings of cream at Dubai afternoon teas
Best sushi in Dubai Oishii! Kiree! Sugoi! and welcome to the most enticing sushi in Dubai
Best beach clubs in Dubai Treat yourself to a day of sunbathing and waiter service at the beach
Dubai’s best outdoor bars 25 top places to spend a night under the stars
Best pizzas in Dubai From dial up to dine in we've eaten the best pizzas in Dubai
Dubai's best dim sum Recommended spots to sample this quintessential Chinese dining pastime
Dubai's best buffets Loosen the belt and pile up your plate at these all-you-can eat packages
86 Friday brunches to try Time for brunch? We run through the options - in price order
56 lunch-break buys Start your style revolution from the comfort of your desktop with these ...